Dato' Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng
(Traditional Chinese: 楊紫瓊; Simplified Chinese: 杨紫琼; pinyin: Yáng Zǐqióng;
Cantonese (Yale romanization): yeung4 ji2 king4; born August 6, 1962) is
a Hong Kong-based actress and dancer, sometimes billed as "Michelle
Khan". Yeoh is a Chinese Malaysian born in Ipoh, Malaysia. Yeoh was
chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the
World in 1997.
In 1983, Yeoh returned to her home
country, Malaysia. It was at the age of 21 when Yeoh became the winner
of the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant in 1983. She was also Malaysia's
representative at the 1983 Miss World pageant in London. From there, she
appeared in a television commercial with Jackie Chan which caught the
attention of a fledgling film production company called D&B Films.
Yeoh's career in Hong Kong started with a few commercials for Charles
Jourdan, opposite action movie heroes Jackie
Chan and Chow Yun-Fat before being offered a film contract. The
Charles Jourdan brand was handled by D&B Group in Hong Kong, run by
Yeoh's future husband, Dickson Poon. In 1988, she retired after marrying
Poon. Three years later, the couple divorced, and Yeoh returned to
acting in 1992. Her first movie after the comeback was Police Story 3,
which was partly shot in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Despite having no formal martial arts
training, Yeoh is best known for her roles in action and martial arts
movies (notably The Heroic Trio in 1993, and the Yuen Woo-ping films Tai
Chi Master and Wing Chun in 1994). She relies on her dance training and
instructors, and does many of her own stunts. She is one of the few
women Jackie Chan allows to do her own stunts in his movies; they first
worked together on a commercial in 1984.
Yeoh learned English and Malay before Cantonese, and still cannot read
Chinese. In some of her early films, she recited her dialogue by rote.
Like many other Hong Kong stars, Yeoh has attempted to break into
Hollywood. Despite starring in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies
(1997) --garnering considerable praise as one of the genre's most
popular Bond Girls-- and the popular Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(2000), she could not accept the role of Seraph in the two Matrix
sequels due to a scheduling conflict, so the Matrix writers changed
Seraph into a male character and cast Collin Chou in the role. In 2002,
she produced her first English movie, The Touch through her own
production company, Mythical Films.
In early 2005, Michelle finished the shooting of Memoirs of a Geisha, a
Hollywood-produced ensemble drama based on a story of Japanese geisha.
The film was released on December 9, 2005.
In 2001, Yeoh was given the title of Dato'
by the Sultan of Perak, her home state. Dato is an honorary Malaysian
title somewhat like a British knighthood, and it lies below the ranks of
Dato' Seri, Tan Sri and Tun.
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